Jury Convicts KC Man of Leading Cyberstalking Conspiracy That Resulted in Murder
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
Conspirators Used GPS Tracking Devices to Hunt Their Victim, Shoot Him in Front of His Minor Daughter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City, Mo., man has been convicted by a federal trial jury of leading a cyberstalking conspiracy that utilized GPS tracking devices to carry out the murder of another Kansas City, Mo., man by tracking him and shooting him to death in front of his minor daughter.
Lester E. Brown, 36, was found guilty on Friday, May 5, of one count of conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, one count of cyberstalking resulting in death, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Co-defendants Michael Young, 32, and Ronell Pearson, 36, have each pleaded guilty to their roles in the cyberstalking conspiracy. Young also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting cyberstalking resulting in death. Both co-defendants are currently in custody awaiting sentencing.
Murder of Christopher Harris
Brown, Young, and Pearson participated in a conspiracy from Nov. 1, 2017, to March 19, 2018, to engage in the cyberstalking of Christopher Harris. Brown deployed multiple GPS devices on vehicles used by Harris and his associates to track their locations.
On March 14, 2018, Brown tracked Harris to a dance studio in Raytown, Mo. With Brown driving and Young and Pearson passengers, they followed Harris’s vehicle as he drove his daughter home from dance class and dropped her off at her mother’s residence in Independence. Brown pulled up behind Harris’s vehicle; Brown and Young got out of the car and shot a firearm multiple times into Harris’s vehicle, causing Harris to scream, “My daughter’s in the car! My daughter is in the car!” Brown fired several rounds into the vehicle, and then several more rounds at Harris as he ran to the door. Harris’s daughter was able to make it inside the house unharmed but Harris fell to the ground before he reached the house. Brown stood over him and fired two last rounds at him while he lay on the ground.
Prior to his murder, conspirators had been sending threatening messages to Harris using the social media service Snapchat. These messages included photographs of GPS devices, and demanded a payment to Brown of $10,000 per month.
In January 2018, conspirators surveilled Harris’s girlfriend at her place of employment, and followed her to the residence she shared with Harris. In February 2018, they deployed a GPS tracking device on Harris’s black Nissan Altima, and used a tracking service to determine his real-time location. Another tracking device was deployed on Harris’s vehicle on March 12, 2018.
Brown’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm is related to him illegally possessing the Glock .45-caliber pistol used to murder Harris. Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Brown, who was on supervised release following his conviction and incarceration for being a felon in possession of a firearm, also has a prior felony conviction for receiving stolen property.
Murder of Ryan Cobbins
Evidence was also presented regarding the murder of Ryan Cobbins, a friend and associate of Harris. One of the Snapchat messages sent to Harris threatened, “Man, you … are gonna end up like Ryan,” which Harris took to be a reference to the murder of his friend Ryan Cobbins in 2013.
Cobbins went missing on Oct. 24, 2013, following a haircut appointment. In November 2013, Brown accepted $20,000 from Harris and another person as “ransom” payment for the return of Cobbins. Brown claimed he could act as the middleman between the kidnappers and Harris, and that he could arrange the safe return of Cobbins. On Dec. 31, 2014, Cobbins was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., deliberated for three and a half hours before returning guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Greg Kays, ending a trial that began Monday, May 1.
Under federal statutes, Brown is subject to a sentence of up to life in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew P. Wolesky and Nicholas P. Heberle. It was investigated by the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department, and the FBI.
Updated May 8, 2023
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